Local News

Aug 29, 2016

BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE PATENT SYSTEM

By Sharmila Ganpat

The world’s environment has been changing drastically over the past several years. Temperatures have been rising, there has been an increase in sea level rise and our natural resources are being exhausted at a rate that is out of our control. Our carbon footprints (Greenhouse Gases [GHG]) are currently having a major impact on us as we are experiencing its backlashing effects. According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, 81% of 9.795 gigatonnes (Gt) of Carbon Dioxide (GHG) was emitted in 2014 through the burning of fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil), solid waste, trees and wood products, and also as a result of certain chemical reactions.

With these increased concerns about climate change and GHGs being released into the environment, there has been increased technological development much of which are protected by patent laws. This leads to the fact that several nations are now bridging the gap between the environment and the patent system.

The patent system is one which provides strong stimulation for innovation and encourages various organizations to invest in research and development without fear of being invaded upon by rivals. For example, some companies have pooled together their patents to share information without actually losing out on royalties, but actually giving them the benefit to cross license their technologies. One example of this is The Eco Patent Commons. It is the first green commons launched by IBM, Nokia, Pitney Bowes, Sony and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) which foster sustainable development. Approximately 100 patents have been pooled together by 11 companies to encourage the collaboration for new innovation and to facilitate the use of existing innovation that safeguards the environment.

According to WIPO (2013), several Intellectual Property offices such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Israel, Japan, The Republic of Korea, The United States of America, Canada, Brazil and China have introduced measures to fast track “green” patent applications. Under this initiative, the time to obtain a patent has been reduced from numerous years to a few months. This prime example illustrates that both conservation methods and the patent system works hand in hand.

Furthermore, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in addition to the Kyoto Protocol obliged Parties to promote and collaborate in the development, including transfer, of technologies that control, reduce or prevent GHG emissions. It was also stated that these actions on technologies will enable the effectiveness and implementation of UNFCCC.

So what are we to do and where do we begin from here? Mitigating the effects of climate change cannot be done just by implementing laws or following rules. It has reached the point to where it affects each living organism drastically. In order to curb this effect and prevent further damage to our environment, new technologies along with the patent system needs to work hand in hand to gain effective and efficient results.

In Trinidad and Tobago (T&T), we have access to the green technologies disclosed in patent documents. Once those patents are not in force in T&T, the technologies are free for use in T&T.